The Ukrainian opposition urged Europe and the United States on Friday to go beyond vocal support for their fight for more democracy and demand a halt to violence they blame on President Viktor Yanukovich.
Opposition leaders met in Munich on Friday with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and were due to talk with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday.
“What we need is not just declarations but a very clear action plan – how to fix the problem and fix the violence, how to investigate all these killings and abductions and tortures,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of the party of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, told Reuters.
The Ukrainians were in the Bavarian capital to meet western officials at the annual Munich Security Conference.
A few hours earlier Yanukovich, who went on sick leave on Thursday in the midst of a crisis in which at least six people have been killed and hundreds injured, signed into law an amnesty for demonstrators detained during mass unrest and repealed anti-protest legislation.
This looked unlikely to end the protests that began in November when the president accepted a $15 billion Russian loan package instead of signing a trade deal with Europe.
With Prime Minister Mykola Azarov forced to quit and no sign of a successor, the opposition saw a dangerous power vacuum.
“There is no one who can really steer the country,” said Yatsenyuk, due to meet Kerry on Saturday with other opposition leaders including the boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, lawmaker Petro Poroshenko and pop star Ruslana Lyzhychko.
“We are impressed with the level of solidarity in the last days. The whole world demonstrates with us,” said Poroshenko.
“There was a very clear, transparent and firm position from the United States, from Canada, and I think the European Union is now much closer in a coordinated reaction with the United States than before,” he said before the meeting with Ashton.
Poroshenko said the amnesty and repeal of the anti-protest law “create a background for real negotiation” but what was most urgently needed was “de-escalation – we need to remove all the riot police from the streets of Kiev”.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, still apparently in his job despite the prime minister’s resignation, was also at the Munich Security Conference, where he too had talks with the German foreign minister.
Steinmeier came out of these talks with the view that the situation in Kiev is “extraordinarily complicated,” a German source said, and he urged Kozhara to get permission for a badly-injured Ukrainian protester to travel to Germany for treatment.
Germany has cranked up its criticisms of the Yanukovich government in the past two weeks, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying last week she was “outraged to the utmost” by attempts to stop the protests with draconian laws and police violence.
This week, Merkel phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin and Yanukovich urging a peaceful end to the crisis and the resumption of talks with Ukraine’s opposition. She has stressed Ukraine must not be put in the position of having to choose between Russia and the European Union.
“We ask Russia for transparent relations,” said opposition leader Yatsenyuk. “That is the key difference between our Western partners and the Russians: the West is open but Russia has a number of deals with the Ukrainian president and nobody knows the details of these deals.”
(Editing by Tom Heneghan)